Real Image, Fake Estate

By Esther Lorenz.

Published by The International Journal of Design in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The real estate development in Hong Kong operates on the basis of heavily manipulated, embellished information about residential property on sale. Although some moderation measures have been initiated recently in response to apparent absurdities, the principal operation mechanisms of the market remain intact. Housing as a commodity is judged according to two criteria: saleable area and mediated image. As a consequence, the desirability of living space is not created by its architectural qualities, but by the image through which it is advertised and by which its exorbitant market value is testified. Theming and advertising per se are not specific to Hong Kong’s housing market, but Hong Kong’s unique political and economic constitution has created a monopoly of developers with the power to invent trends and demands which impact the urban landscape and the compositional logic of typologies. The image mediated by promotional materials, as well as by the building itself in the form of thematic zones, surfaces, and services, creates the background for a reconstituted lifestyle, which stands vis-à-vis a predominating standard design for the apartments. Private residential buildings in Hong Kong have become the prime example for simulation. This study examines the status of design between the poles of the provision of housing and the mechanisms of the market, from the perspective of image creation and consumption. It investigates processes of advertisement and purchase in the property market, as well as the elements which constitute the image of space on sale. These processes are juxtaposed with the actual built reality, the “estate”, and the parameters that shape it. The study’s findings help locate the cultural and financial forces of urban transformation in Hong Kong, and reveal some of the underlying values which constitute design culture.

Keywords: Design Culture, Simulation, Theming, Housing, Architecture, Private Residential Developments, Real Estate Market, Hong Kong

The International Journal of Design in Society, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.11-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 8.862MB).

Esther Lorenz

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Esther Lorenz is a registered architect from Austria and currently an assistant professor at the School of Architecture in the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She was educated at TU Graz (Austria) and TU Delft (Netherlands), and she has been practicing architecture and urban design in the Netherlands, Austria, and Australia. In her research work and teaching she investigates cultural issues in regard to contemporary cities and architecture, thereby focusing on issues such as the quality of living environments and socio-cultural sustainability, as well as space perception and space production, together with an exploration into the intersection between media and architecture. She has been an invited lecturer and guest critic at academic institutions internationally, and exhibited in the HK-SZ Bi-City Biennale in 2007 and 2009, and at the 11th Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2008.